Jones terms Site C ‘not the best choice’

Published 5:45 pm Saturday, March 31, 2007

By Staff
Congressman prefers Craven County spot
News Editor
U.S. Rep. Walter Jones said the Navy hasn’t done a “thorough job” in investigating options for an outlying landing field, and on Friday he called on Navy Secretary Donald Winter to reconsider Site C plans.
Jones, whose 3rd Congressional District includes Beaufort County, is the latest in a string of politicians on either the state level or national level to ask the Navy to nix its plans to put an OLF for training pilots on the border of Washington and Beaufort counties. Jones said he bases his opinion on the views of a bird-jet strike expert.
Opponents of the Navy’s Site C selection have long said its nearness to Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge would pose an unnecessary danger to military pilots. That refuge is the wintering grounds for thousands of migratory waterfowl, including snow geese and tundra swans.
That research led Jones to Lt. Col. Russell DeFusco, the former chief of the Air Force’s Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard team.
DeFusco’s opinion is outlined in a letter Jones sent to Winter on Friday.
“In Dr. DeFusco’s expert opinion, the bottom line regarding Site C is this: ‘Bird activity will be severe enough and often enough to significantly impact operations and training in the area . . . (forcing the Navy) to curtail flying during times and over specific locations when and where birds are determined to be significantly hazardous to continued operations,’” the letter states.
Jones, a Republican from Farmville, said he sides with Dale Hall, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in believing that Site E in Craven County is a better choice for an OLF. Craven County is also in Jones’ congressional district.
A member of the U.S. House’s Armed Service’s Committee, Jones wrote that he “fully recognizes the need” to build an OLF dedicated to pilot training. But he said he’s “troubled” by the latest, court-ordered study, “which the Navy prepared to justify its preference” for Site C.
Jones said building a $230 million OLF at a site with “severe operational restrictions” is not a prudent way to spend taxpayers’ money. Jones said the state would be a “happy to be home” to an OLF, but he added that “Site C is not the best choice.”